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Aseptic Meningitis

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Aseptic Meningitis


Meningitis is swelling of the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Aseptic meningitis is different from bacterial meningitis because it is caused by something other than bacteria.


Meningitishttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=73077307si2230.jpgsi2230.jpgNULLjpgsi2230.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si2230.jpgNULL89NULL2008-11-073013947307_581181Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Aseptic meningitis is caused by other things than bacteria. It may stem from:

  • Infections from:
    • Viruses
    • Parasites
    • Fungi
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Some cancers
  • Some medicines, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), and IV antibodies

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of meningitis include:

  • Having some cancers
  • Health issues or taking medicine that affects immune system
  • Being around someone who has been sick
  • Having certain long term infections
  • The season—it is more common in the summer and early fall
  • Working in a daycare or healthcare setting


A person with aseptic meningitis may have:

  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Belly pain
  • Rash


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The CSF around the spine and brain will likely be tested with a lumbar puncture, which is also called a spinal tap. It can confirm meningitis. Tests of the blood and fluid may be done to look for a cause.

Images of the brain and spine may be taken with a:


Most people get better with time. How it is treated depends on the cause. It may involve:

  • Medicines to treat the cause of the infection
  • Pain relievers
  • Steroids to lower swelling

The doctor will stop any medicines that are causing problems.

Note: Do not give aspirin or aspirin products to a child who has an infection. It may cause serious problems.


People can lower their chance of aseptic meningitis by:

  • Washing their hands often, especially if they:
    • Are around a person who has an infection
    • Changed the diaper of an infant who has an infection
  • Regularly cleaning surfaces or objects that are touched often
  • Making sure their vaccinations are up to date




  • Aseptic meningitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/aseptic-meningitis.
  • Meningococcal disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningitis/index.html.
  • Mount, H.R. and Boyle, S.D. Aseptic and bacterial meningitis: evaluation, treatment, and prevention. American Family Physician, 2017; 96(5): 314-322.


  • Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.